Byron Bay

Headshot of Lily Nannini.
Lily Nannini
April 8, 2024

What I love about writing these blogs is the opportunity to relive the memories

Everyone I knew was either traveling to New Zealand or Tasmania for flex week. Having already been to Tasmania and not wanting to repeat places, and having decided I will come back and do a long, proper New Zealand van trip, I was scrambling for Flex Week plans. With no one to go with and not wanting to stay in Sydney, I looked on Capital One Travel and found a roundtrip flight to Byron Bay for $50. Natürlich, I booked it.



I got up around 5am and got an Uber Pool to the airport. It was pouring rain. I found out the guy sharing the Uber with me was also studying at UNSW and was from Norway! Jetstar didn’t weigh my backpack for the first time. When I landed I checked in for the airport shuttle transfer to Byron Bay. While standing outside under an incredibly blue sky, a girl around my age walked up to me and asked me about the shuttle service. I pointed her towards the counter inside the small Ballina airport and she quickly came back and told me she got a transfer with a different company. I found out she is also studying at UNSW, which was a really fortunate coincidence. We exchanged contact info and got onto our separate shuttles. Since I was talking to her, I hadn’t noticed everyone had already piled into my bus. The driver asked if I minded sitting in front and that made my day. The shuttle dropped me off right in front of my hostel, Vali Byron Bay. I couldn’t check in until 2pm, but left my bag in the storage room. Vidhi, the girl from the airport, texted me after she dropped her bags at her hostel and we met at Bay Leaf. I. Was. Obsessed. The laid back atmosphere, open seating and beautiful coffee bar were simply too good. We both ordered coconut cold brews and I got the salted caramel crumpets (“local sourdough crumpets blanketed with smooth coconut siphon, seasonal grilled fruit, toasted quinoa + sesame seed crunch finished with salted homemade caramel”). After brunch we walked along the streets and stopped in whichever shops looked appealing to us. We spent a lot of time in Trinkets, a bead shop where we chose our own beads and bought string to make bracelets later. Vidhi told me she works at one of the sports stores in Sydney, so I got a Billabong bucket hat for 50% off with her discount! We parted ways briefly to check in to our hostels and recharge our phones. Vali probably would have been one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in, if it weren’t for my roommates…The hostel used to be a hotel, so we had a mini fridge and balcony. I was in a four-bed female dorm, and the other three were from Germany, Austria, and the German-speaking part of Switzerland. They were all nice, except the one girl was deathly ill, had a fever and collapsed the day before I arrived. Therefore, she switched to the bottom bunk and I was stuck with the top (it was fine). I was praying on my immune system to carry me through this trip, and limited my time in the room to as little as possible. Vidhi and I met up again and walked to Tree House for happy hour and an early dinner. We shared the pulled chicken nachos (SO. GOOD.), portobello road pizza (“mozz, roasted portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, brie”), and I got the holiday marg (“1800 coconut tequila, liquor 43 horchata, coconut cream, pineapple juice + coconut sugar”). I adored the outdoor seating. After dinner, we walked in the opposite direction to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. It was a really nice walk with stunning views and we even saw a wild koala! The stairs were no joke, but the view was absolutely worth it. We got to see dolphins swimming in the waves below. I loved seeing so many people gathered around, sitting together and watching the sunset. While the clouds lit up in fiery red and orange hues and slowly faded back to grey, we sat at the base of the lighthouse and made anklets with our beads from earlier. The walk back was a little sketchy because it was pitch black, but it was fine! I showered and went to bed because we had an early wake up planned for the next day.



This morning I woke up pretty early and met Vidhi at Sparrow Coffee right when they opened at 05:30. I got a flat white, then we walked back to my hostel and met the group for the lighthouse sunrise walk. We went up following the road instead of through the woods like we did last night, so it was a lot more manageable. The sunrise was, of course, beautiful. We walked back to town on the beach and went to Combi for breakfast. Once again, I was obsessed. I ordered buckwheat pancakes (“layered with fresh banana and raspberry chia jam; served with coconut ice cream, passion fruit pulp, maple syrup + house made macadamia crunch + nutella). I don’t think I was ever not in awe of the presentation of plates during this trip. The fresh flowers also added a really nice touch. After breakfast we walked to Main Beach for a post-sunrise nap and ocean swim. The current was wicked strong. My sea kayak with dolphins + turtles tour was canceled because of unsafe wave conditions:( We walked around a little more until Vidhi got picked up from her hostel by the shuttle to take her back to the airport. It was a short couple of days together, but we definitely packed a lot in which I was grateful for. I don’t know what I would have done those first two days if I hadn’t met her. Once she left, I was alone again. I walked back to the beach and sat at a bench in one of the parks. I was content with people watching until a strange guy approached and started bothering people near me. I turned around and exchanged looks with the girl sitting at the opposite end of the picnic table and we both silently got up and walked away. I honestly can’t remember what I did after that, I think I went back to Vali and either sat on our balcony or in the lobby and read my Kindle. Later that evening I joined the hostel for trivia at the Great Northern Hotel. I had such a good time, lowkey slayed at some of the most random questions (somehow knew that nitrogen is the gas inside bags of chips, knew the famous line was from the movie Jaws…näturlich, was able to find the area of a right triangle–really proud of that one lol–and was able to translate “anteater” from German because Michelle didn’t know the word for it in English). After trivia, I walked back with Michelle (from Germany) and Alexis (from England). More than anything, I was relieved to have met more people. 



I woke up to pouring rain beating down on our balcony. I walked to the Thursday farmer’s market with one of the girls from my room, but the weather was so bad they were just packing everything up when we arrived. I went to High Life for breakfast and scored a counter seat on the covered part of the balcony so I was safe from the rain. I got a weird mushroom hot chocolate thing (wasn’t bad) and the coconut apple bircher with cinnamon & honey almonds. The mom across from me with her two kids noticed I got the bircher and told me it was the best she’d ever had. We briefly talked about how we usually don’t order granola (lol) and I learned she was on holiday from Sydney, taking her kids out to breakfast while her husband packed up their camper in the rain. It was a small gesture and short conversation, but talking to this random stranger made me realize I’m not the only one experiencing a dreary, rainy day. I stayed there for a while, reading my Kindle and listening to the two guys across from me. They were the epitome of Aussie surfer dudes. The phrases they said throughout their conversation were so Australian. I won’t retell the entirety of their conversation, but a big portion of it was the one guy telling the other about his night that involved taking mushrooms, lying down on the beach looking up at the stars, and carrying his bike through the woods. It was so interesting. What made their meeting even more awesome was that they hadn’t planned to meet for breakfast, the one guy was already there sitting across from me and the other guy just happened to go at the same time and recognize him. They were still talking by the time I left. The rest of this day wasn’t too interesting. I ended up going to the movies alone which sounds depressing but honestly I had a good time. Nobody checked my ticket that I bought online which was crazy, I literally just walked right into the theater. I was so strategic in hiding my water bottle and snacks, too. After the movie the rain finally subsided, so I walked to The Pass and back. I treated myself to gelato from Frankies (I knew it was good because it was covered and in the metal canisters). I got hazelnut and coffee in a cup, and found out the girl working was from the US and from Mass!!! Apparently she had just started there and was loving it. I joined the free movie night back at the hostel. They were playing Extraction 2 with Chris Hemsworth, of course. I can’t remember if I ate dinner or did anything after that, but that pretty much sums up this rainy day. 



Today was really good. One of my roommates and I joined the free boxing class hosted by the hostel. I loved it. It was so fun getting into the rhythm of the punches, and I learned that I cannot count to ten fast in German. After that, Alexis (one of the girls from trivia) and I rented bikes from her hostel. We biked to The Farm and met up with the rest of our trivia group who drove there. We walked around and watched the chickens, pigs, and horses. We tried cracking macadamias and they tasted really good. Alexis and I got gelato then we biked back to town. We went to Combi for brunch and I got the peanut butter açaí bowl. After, we biked to the Three Sisters walking track in Broken Head (literally 10 minutes away from Chris Hemsworth’s mansion). The ride was a real adventure because we went off-road and biked through mud, streams, and roots to cut through to our destination. The walk itself was beautiful and offered a really stunning, vast view of the ocean, surfers, waves, and beach. Alexis got her drone out and it was so cool to watch her fly it. We slowly made our way back to our parked bikes and went back to town. Vali was hosting a free Friday BBQ night, so that was our dinner. We met some more people (a guy from the German-speaking part of Switzerland, a girl from Germany, and a girl from Sweden) and ended up walking to the beach together for sunset and gelato. It was a great day.



My last day in Byron Bay. I walked to the Byron Bay General Store and ordered a flat white and açaí bowl. I sat outside at one of the picnic tables and read my Kindle. The weather was perfect, it was that brisk but refreshing morning cool as the sun was still making its way up. The coffee was probably the most beautiful and delicious I’ve had since coming to Australia, and the same for the bowl. No words can do it justice for how good this meal was, so I’ll just leave the picture to do the talking. I took my time and enjoyed the slow start to the morning until I finally had to leave so I would make it back to Vali in time for check-out. I stored my bag in the closet and turned around to see Michelle and Alexis. We sat in the lobby for a little while; I was hyping Michelle up for her first reformer pilates class (she texted me later that she loved it) and she was helping me with my Nazi Germany research paper. Alexis and I decided to walk down the beach toward Brunswick Heads. It was a really nice beach walk, but what was even better was the conversation. In the two short days I’ve known her, I really felt like this was a friend I wanted to keep in touch with after we parted ways. We got off the beach and went to Tree House for lunch before my flight. We split the tartufo pizza (“truffle cream base, mozz, mushroom, champagne ham, shaved parmesan”) and “chips” (aka fries). There was a really adorable golden retriever sitting at the table behind us who I had to say hi to. We walked back to Vali and Alexis waited with me in the lobby until the van arrived to take me to the airport. It was only me and one other lady and we had a good conversation during the ride. Our guide pointed out both Liam and Chris Hemsworth’s driveways. At the airport, I sat at a table with the lady and she showed me photos of her home in the Italian countryside (literally a dream). The flight was…interesting. Normally I wouldn’t blatantly state this because to each his own but this old lady next to me was literally crazy. First, she was sitting in the window seat behind my row, then realized she was in the wrong row. She proceeded to climb over me (when I was perfectly happy and willing to get up so she could go into the seat next to me). Let’s just say plane rows aren’t spacious enough for her to pull that maneuver. Once seated, she kept talking to me which I didn’t mind at first because I’m always open to conversation, but omg some of the things she said. For instance, our flight attendant had a speech impediment and the lady leaned in so flipping close to me and started laughing while saying “can she learn how to speak English first.” Eventually I just knocked myself out and slept the entire flight. The lady didn’t disturb me. When we landed, she kept yapping to people about going out the back exit because it’ll be faster. Her impatience was obnoxiously evident. One moment she was snarking at the poor flight attendant’s speech and the next I looked over and she’s climbing over her seat to the row behind us and yelling “see ya!” back at me as she exits the aircraft. I wish I could say this was the worst part about my journey back, but it got worse. At the airport, I made my way to the priority pickup location to get an Uber, like I have so many times before. For some reason, Uber wasn’t connecting me to any drivers and when I finally got one I waited for ten minutes just for him to cancel. I looked at the train times, but was notified that there was some kind of delay or alternate route on the train I needed to take (I refused to get screwed over by the public transit again, so I got screwed over by Uber and some randos from Florida and Jersey instead). To get back on track, this girl and her mom were standing next to me both trying to secure an Uber. The girl asked me how long I’d been waiting, to which I replied “a while.” She finally got an Uber and was going to Wynyard. Frantically, I asked if I could join their ride because at least I could take the light rail back from there and wouldn’t be completely stranded at the airport for lord knows how long. Of course, I told her I’d pay for my share of the ride, and she said $20 should be good. I literally responded with $20AUD? To which her mother, whom I was sharing the backseat with, started to explain how their card usually charges them a high fee and that it often adds an additional charge after the fact. I thought to myself, sounds like a you problem, I know that Uber was not $45 like she claimed, and if it was it was definitely in AUD but I wasn’t gonna fight the girl so I sent her the twenty bucks and moved on. I have more to say on this matter, but for the sake of respect for this blog and those complete wackadoos, I’ll keep it to myself:) The l-rail was delayed, temporarily stopped for a police operation, and crowded from the sports game. After 2 hours since arriving in Sydney and what should’ve been a 15 minute drive, I finally made it back to my apartment. For perspective, I could have driven from Logan Intl Airport to my home on Cape in less than that amount of time…But at least I made it back safe. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Byron. I love how walkable it is. So many surfers. So many dogs. So many active people. So much good food. I’ve kept in touch with Vidhi and am grateful for this serendipitous friendship. Meeting all these backpackers, I gained a lot of insight into not having a set plan and being flexible with traveling. In one regard, this trip truly was a “flex week” in that I had this window of time, saw a cheap flight for these random days, and just booked it.  

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Headshot of Lily Nannini.

Lily Nannini

Hi! I'm Lily and I'm from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I currently attend Washington and Lee University in Virginia. I'm always down for spontaneous adventures, catching sunrise/sunset, and taking pictures of food:) When I graduate college I want to renovate a van and travel the country, visiting every U.S. National Park as I go. Hopefully I'll have a golden retriever with me too. I love meeting new people and gaining new experiences, so I am extremely excited for this term in Vienna!

Home University:
Washington and Lee University
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